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|Easter in the Batcave's 2016|
MULTIPLE CATEGORIES. TONS OF MUSIC. WHO WILL WIN? Read below...
** THE ALBUMS. ** We begin with every album I heard this year, ranked worst-to-best.
Angelic 2 The Core
An utterly baffling dual disc release from '80s child actor phenom Corey Feldman. This is bad in every sense of the word; one of the very few albums I've heard where nothing it attempts works. It's largely Michael Jackson-ripoff pop, but there's also hilariously awful vocal jazz ("We Wanted Change"), bizarre nu-metal distorted guitar overtop hip-hop beats and wah funk ("Negativity"), and... well, a lot more awful crap you should listen to only listen to if you want a hearty laugh.
World On Fire
Atrociously produced self-indulgent tripe from Yngwie "I've forgotten how to write songs" Malmsteen. Three of the songs feature his wailing '80s vocals, which are thankfully buried in the mix, but even the instrumentals are nigh unlistenable due to the messy, sloppy, incredibly bad production job.
Fire of the Spirit
Fire of the Spirit is a peculiar and unorthodox record, not entirely ineffective, but moreso that than that trait's more desirable opposite. Skip the skippable voice samples, and ignore the ones embedded beneath the instrumentals, and it's suited to lonely walks through autumnal forests, I suppose-- or perhaps even walks with company. However, given that this is a one-man project (Paul Ravenwood, responsible for all instruments, mixing, and mastering) I suspect it's designed with the lone traveler in mind. I suggest that there are more worthwhile journeys for such travelers to embark upon.
Overblown, gaudy power metal. Completely not my cup of tea. Fans of the genre may enjoy-- the performances are fine-- but I find this record garish, synthetic, and wholly uninteresting. It is utterly over-the-top and lacks any distinctive edges.
The Waiting Room
It's not unlistenable, but it's very dreary, very slow, and quite boring. There are some nice melodies, but they are stretched far beyond their point of interest. This is a record which revels in its beautiful lethargy. "The Waiting Room" is an appropriate title. "We Are Dreamers!" is my favourite track, because something actually happens on that one.
Moreso than the synthetic overproduction and somewhat aimless songwriting, what bothers me about this album, and others like it, is the lack of balance. Everything-- and I mean everything-- is multi-tracked within an inch of its life with would-be-epic intentions, and as such the whole record is overzealous and one-note. It all runs together. Restraint and indulgence must play equal parts, and Borknagar, on this album, rely entirely on the latter.
The Fall of Hearts
Competent performances and production, but this is-- I hate to say it-- boring. Mostly boring, anyway. There are some fantastic sections ("Takeover," "The Night Subscriber," "Passer") but the songwriting is unsatisfying, and it's all rather lukewarm, due largely to Jonas Renske's one-dimensional vocals. He has a great voice, but he hardly pushes himself here. Overall, The Fall of Hearts is a disappointingly incongruous and meek listen.
Yet more retro-throwback prog rock from Opeth. A review I read on RYM sums it up nicely: to paraphrase, I don't mind that Opeth is focusing on soft material now (after all, look at how great Damnation is), but I do mind that they aren't doing anything original, instead just recycling '70s prog rock tropes. I can't say this is a bad album, because it's well-performed, well-produced, and the songwriting is pretty good too. It's just quite dull.
"Silvera" is cool, but besides that one (somewhat) high point, this is just such a snoozer. Gojira go for shorter, marginally less aggressive tracks here, and it sounds like, well, watered down Gojira. Aside from these lukewarm metal efforts, "Yellow Stone" is a bizarre, underdeveloped "Dawn Patrol"-esque instrumental interlude, and "Liberation," the closer, is a pleasant but also rather empty and one-dimensional instrumental.
The Violent Sleep of Reason
On paper, this should be excellent. Namely, this was recorded live in the studio... yes. However, the songs just don't do much for me. My opinion might change with subsequent listens, as is wont to happen with this band, but for now, I just can't get as into this album as I would like. Every track blurs together in a sea of chugging, and the grooves themselves aren't really, well, groovy. Great production, though.
Surprisingly good. Megadeth's best record since Endgame. There are some legitimately great songs on here, including the title track and the instrumental "Conquer...or die!" This is also Mustaine's best vocal performance ever. However, the lyrics are often horrible ("Post-American World," "The Emperor") and, really, this doesn't break any new ground for the band.
Simple emo/indie rock. At 28 minutes, it's far too short, but what is here is consistently listenable. Some good lyrics, an earnest vocal performance, and a boomy but clear production style all elevate the record.
|53||Explosions in the Sky|
Explosions in the Sky have never been a particularly original outfit; rather, their success has been based upon a deft execution of established post-rock tropes. The Wilderness sees the band extending their reach somewhat, going for shorter songs with more electronic influence. The results are good ("Disintegration Anxiety", "Logic of a Dream") more often than not, but more risk-taking would be welcome.
American Football (LP2)
It's fine, but it's not as moving or engaging as the original. The trumpet is absent, the guitar intertwining is less inventive, and though Kinsella's vocals have improved in pitch, they aren't as endearing (I suppose that was unavoidable, though). Overall, the new American Football is expectedly pleasant, though somewhat lukewarm. I suppose we should be thankful it exists at all, though.
Blues of Desperation
Hokey at times ("This Train," "The Valley Runs Low"), but there are some legitimately great songs ("Mountain Climbing," "No Good Place for the Lonely") and the playing is impeccable. Though I gravitate towards forward-thinking music and not retro material, and this album falls into the latter category, the record's charm and verve are impressive enough for me to recommend it.
Yellowcard's so-called final record is a sleek, pop rock affair. Gone are all niggling traces of 'punk'; this is a ballad-heavy, somewhat weepy record, but endearing and heartfelt all the same. Namely, "A Place We Set Afire" is one of the band's best songs, up there with the likes of "Way Away" and "A Vicious Kind". Unfortunately, the rest of the record is a little bland; for the most part, the upbeat songs aren't as catchy or interesting as the band's finest work, and Ryan & co. misfire with the oversaturation of ballads.
Gloomy funeral doom with some awkwardly placed black metal-inspired blast beat sections. The production is great and, aside from the first seven minutes of the closing track, the record isn't boring. Only four songs, but they are all quite long. Some nice cello, too.
This record hearkens back to the Ecailles de Lune/Les Voyages de L'Ame sound; that is, highly melodic, beauteous black metal. While this results in a better release than Shelter, it also feels like a retread in some respects-- which is appropriate since, essentially, it is. The production is excellent, though, the melodies are wonderful, and, though the song structures can wind a little too much for their own good (the title track), overall this a successful release.
Enjoyable listen. The electronic experimentation ("South Winds," "Frail") is refreshing, Ihsahn's voice is as good as ever, and there are some flat out glorious moments ("Mass Darkness," "Celestial Violence"). The '80s rock-homage "Until I Too Dissolve" is a lot fun, too. I'm not getting an arctic vibe from this though, really, so I don't get the album title. Also, some of the tracks ("Disassembled," "My Heart Is of the North") are lost amongst the more adventurous lot.
This is the closest to Crimson III we're probably ever going to get, so perk up, Edge of Sanity fans. Indeed, this Dan Swano-produced (!!!), 40-minute, single track progressive death metal album (sound familiar yet?) is actually pretty good. The production is great, there is lots of impressive guitarwork, and there are some wonderful melodic moments (the 'chorus' in part 2). It blurs together somewhat, though, as certain sections are less memorable than others, and I wish there was more experimentation within the massive song. This is pretty satisfying on the whole, though.
Plastic House on Base of Sky
Takes Coffins on Io's synth-driven sound in a more abstract direction. The drums are rollicking in odd times, the vocals are back in the mix, and the song structures are decidedly variegated. Whereas Coffins was, for the most part, accessible, this is a willfully difficult album, transplanting Coffins' '80s vibe to a surreal realm of muted blues and floating keys. Plastic House on Base of Sky is an idiosyncratic work, peculiar and effective.
To Be Everywhere Is to Be Nowhere
The most straightforward record Thrice has ever released, but it's solid ("Black Honey," "Stay with Me"). It leans even further in a mainstream rock direction than Major/Minor, but the results aren't bad, though the record as a whole lacks the creativity of their best work. A satisfying comeback for Thrice, but I hope their next record is more daring.
Five lengthy symphonic black metal tracks. Well-produced, unlike much of black metal, but that is good due to the density of this material. A lo-fi production job would have obscured much of the detail. It's overly repetitious in spots, but it's a good record.
The Synarchy of Molten Bones
Dense, chaotic, whirlwind black/death/mildly orchestral metal. This is relatively atmospheric, the vocals are nicely varied, and it doesn't overstay its welcome (though 29 minutes is a bit too short). Excellent production, too. Ultimately, though this LP could use more variation and a longer runtime, it's a great, and awesomely heavy, listen.
|41||Devin Townsend Project|
Transcendence is best described as a combination of Accelerated Evolution and Epicloud. It's bombastic, choirs and reverb are abound, and the songs are, barring the "Truth" re-record and the title track, structured as pop tunes. In that regard, the inventiveness and daring of something like Terria's "Mountain" or "Deep Peace" or Ocean Machine's "The Death of Music" is absent. However, it's got a few of Devin's best non-Casualties tunes since Ghost ("Stormbending," "Failure," the title track) and the production (particularly the drums) is superb. I also like the return of closing track ambience connecting the songs (a la Terria). Also of note: there is a higher guitar solo quota on here than any of Devin's other releases, besides Terria. There are some dud tracks (the bland "Secret Sciences," the cheesy "Stars"), but this is certainly the DTP's best since Ghost.
Poor production, a couple of duds ("Geometric Headdress," "Pittura Infamante"), and there's not much new here, but this is a solid record and an acceptable addition to the Deftones' discography. "Doomed User," "Hearts/Wires," the title track, and "Phantom Bride" are the highlights.
This is Death Grips' most straightforward release since Government Plates, and that isn't a bad thing. Bottomless Pit is never too challenging, but there's a lot of variety. "Giving Bad People Good Ideas" and the title track are two of the most blistering songs in the band's catalog; "Spikes" is just plain catchy; "Hot Head" is part groovy rap, part synth-arpeggiated assault.
|38||The Dillinger Escape Plan|
Dillinger bows out with their most eclectic record yet. Aside from their traditional spastic mathcore ("Low Feels Blvd"), we get spoken word sections ("Wanting Not So Much to As To"), electronic ("Fugue"), orchestral stuff ("Nothing to Forget"), and more. A wholly entertaining, intense listen. Also, Greg's best vocal performance ever ("Limerent Death" is remarkable).
Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks
I'm not familiar with Twin Peaks, but this music is making me want to be. This is an awesome record. It's wide-ranging, covering genres as diverse as ambient, jazz, and rock, and it never loses steam across its hour-plus runtime. Indeed, even the quiet moments are engrossing ("Sycamore Tree," "Harold's Theme"). Also, I love the noisy production. I would have liked some more vocals, but this is still highly recommended.
Fires Within Fires
With Fires Within Fires, Neurosis have released an excellent 41-minute slice of their traditional post/sludge metal styling. Putting out a relatively short record was a great move; the album never drags, but the length is sufficient for the development of a compelling atmosphere. That atmosphere is dark and aggressive, with less ambient excursions than perhaps expected. Such directness works in its favour-- it results in a punchy, consistently compelling work.
Ulver delivers yet again. This time, the music is sourced from a series of live free improv shows the band performed, and enhanced in the studio. There are lots of shoutouts to previous records (most obviously is "Glamour Box (Ostinati)"'s reinterpretation, "Glammer Hammer"). There is jam rock ("Cromagnosis"), ambient ("D-Day Drone"), and more, and while the record is long, it's engaging.
Exceptional jazz-rock with frills. This expands upon the band's debut record in every way. Stellar performances, a bevy of presented emotions, and some truly fine songwriting. Do yourself a favour and check it out.
A Moon Shaped Pool
With time, this may become one of Radiohead's beloved upper pantheon. It's a grower, that much is clear; in the four months since its release my appreciation for it has only increased. It's a measured, melancholic record, featuring the phenomenal production and lyrics-- and cerebral songwriting-- expected of the band. It's at once tense and hopeful, a coiled mouse in a corner at sunrise, the impending Sol to soon reveal an absence of traps and a plethora of cheese cubes. It's an excellent record.
The first song is an engrossing musique concrete piece, the second a lengthy, noisy shoegaze epic, the third an overlong dark ambient number, and the last a combination of harsh noise and a calming lullaby melody. Overall, this is a fantastic listen. It embodies a sense of loneliness, which is especially effective in the opening and closing tracks. I love the second song, too-- it's a difficult one, but amazingly atmospheric.
Blackstar triumphantly overlays elements of jazz, electronic, and avantgarde with an art rock sensibility. Bowie's impending death informs the lyrics and theme of the record, providing an earnestly dark yet simultaneously accepting vibe. Lots of detailed grooves, horn squawks, and emotionally charged vocals. An electrifying listen, and among the best records of 2016.
|30||Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds|
The emotional honesty and sheer rawness of this record is devastatingly effective. The minimalist arrangements, while occasionally veering too far in a stripped back direction ("Magneto"), emphasize this purity, and allow Cave's vocals ample space to resonate. Skeleton Tree features several of the year's best songs ("Jesus Alone," "Girl in Amber," the title track), and is a must-listen.
** STUFF I WANTED TO HEAR BUT DIDN'T GET TO. ** Pretty self-explanatory, but just in case: five records from this year that I didn't get to in time to make this list.
The Impossible Kid
I like Aesop Rock's other stuff. On my to hear list.
|27||Tiny Moving Parts|
I like the little I've heard from these guys. I'll get to this eventually.
I've heard good things about this record, but I had other stuff that interested me more.
49 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abomina...
I liked Simulacrum, and this is by the same lineup.
The Glowing Man
An egregious oversight. I WILL hear this, soon.
** TOP 10 SONGS. ** My favourite songs of the year (ranked 10 to 1).
|22||The Dillinger Escape Plan|
10. "Limerent Death" -- The ending alone is worthy of a spot here.
Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks
9. "Into the Night" -- Every element works harmoniously to create a mildly eerie, wholly unique atmosphere. Great vocals.
8. "A Place We Set Afire" -- Easily the best song on Yellowcard's final record. Indeed, it's among the best tracks in their discography: heartfelt, but not maudlin.
7. "Glammer Hammer" -- "Glamour box" was my favourite song on Messe, and this reworking is just as good.
6. "The Gerogerigegege" -- A beautiful, noisy endurance test.
A Moon Shaped Pool
5. "Daydreaming" -- I loved the video too.
4. "Giving Bad People Good Ideas" -- The most straightforward 'rock' track in Death Grips' catalogue is also one of their best. A burst of unrelenting energy.
3. "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" -- Amazing groove to this track, and Bowie's vocals are spot-on.
2. "Krew" -- John Zorn's shadow presides over this whirlwind jazz beast.
|13||Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds|
1. "Girl in Amber" -- No other song this year affected me more strongly. A stunning work.
** BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS. ** Three records that let me down, from bands in whom I carry high hopes.
I knew Opeth was going to put out another retro prog album (ugh), but I was hoping this one would at least take THAT sound in a new direction. Not really.
The Fall of Hearts
Dull, dull stuff. Everything runs together and it lacks any emotional resonance.
If I wanted watered down Gojira, I'd listen to Trivium.
** BEST COVER ART. ** They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but they say nothing about judging the cover itself.
This choice will be controversial, but you know what? I love it. It's striking, unexpected, and the juxtaposition between the title and the art is intriguing.
|6||Howls of Ebb|
Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows
I'm a sucker for this sort of murky, imposing, dark stuff.
A Sailor's Guide To Earth
Never actually heard this record, but that cover art is glorious.
** BEST SONG TITLES. ** Because why not.
|3||The Dillinger Escape Plan|
"Wanting Not So Much to As To" -- The title is almost as mind-bending as the song itself.
The Synarchy of Molten Bones
"The Synarchy of Molten Bones" -- The utter brutality.
"'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" -- If you disagree, you're wrong.
|Happy Nearly New Year|
|Cool stuff man|
|Agreed that Fall of Hearts is boring af|
|All the best song titles you chose are absolutely terrible especially the dep one|
|gore's artwork is so bad tho|
|Wanting Not So Much to As To is pretty great, c'mon.|
I knew Gore would cause a stir in that category, but I gotta say I dig it.
|Gore's art is so lazy imo. Like they could have done more with the claustrophobic pink going on, instead of copy & pasting the same flamingo.|
|However 5's art is the goat|
|You're missing out on 26 hard|
|I get why people wouldn't like the Gore art, but still, I like it, even if it is the same flamingo repeated. I feel there must be a reason for it being copied beyond just laziness.|
And yeah 50il, I'll get to it eventually. I've heard nothing but positivity for it.
|Wait. Was Frogstomp the worst? |
[Edit] Oh, I see what you did.